ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Lucking Into a Good Time

Scotttsdale’s North Italia Restaurant

TRAVEL THERE: AN UNCOMMON EVENING AT KIERLAND COMMONS

So, we’ve had an amazing day.  Early morning travel, fun shopping, spectacular art show and an itsy tiny set-back that was quickly resolved.  The Westin provided us with a brochure called “Local Restaurants” and using what we discovered there, we headed our for round two.

A Confession

It’s hard for a leopard to change it’s spots, but not impossible.  I’d vowed to be easy-going on this vacation and not let the schedule dominate my thoughts, but I had done my homework.  I knew it was Thursday and so Scottsdale Artwalk was happening in Old Town.  I had plotted out the trolley route on my handy dandy map and was ready ready with information to make it a good time. 

However, I also knew we’d spent the best part of the day in the endless studios of the Celebration of Fine Art.  Mr. Bill was ready to eat and trying to coordinate him with the trolley schedule to view more artists’ studios did not seem like a wise thing – even if Artwalk was happening.  I recommend it to you every Thursday evening, but we didn’t make it.  

Heading to the Commons

So, instead we headed to the Kierland Commons, a nearby playground full of restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities.  Parking was a challenge akin to parking at NorthPark on the Saturday before Christmas, but the travel gods were with us, so we did find something.

Next we strolled around to take in the atmosphere and check out the dining options we’d seen in the brochure.  After a little strolling, North, the restaurant chosen most likely to succeed back at the hotel, did win out as our choice.  However, something was definitely happening across the street, so we went there first.  

The Anticus Gallery Re-Opening Party

Describing Anticus challenges traditional categories.  Yes, it’s an art gallery and studio.  Yes, it’s a book store.  Yes, it’s a jewelry store.  Yes, it’s also a gift store.  It’s most similar to a really good gift shop in a great museum, but instead of the museum you’ve got a studio AND they have a bar.  

When we got there, Anticus had outgrown a space two doors down and was hosting their grand re-opening.  We didn’t realize it was a by-invitation-only kind of thing, but the host soon found us and let us know it was cool for us to be there.  I think it should be noted that Anticus has moved again and they are now down in Old Town (where Artwalk was happening), but please put them on your list and tell them I sent you!  Spreading the word about them is the least I can do after they showed us such a good time.

Though we were serendipitous guests, we thoroughly enjoyed the party.  Bill was feeling very artsy after his afternoon at the Celebration of Fine Art.  He chatted up anyone who’d stay still long enough to start a conversation.  We drank a couple of glasses of cheap wine and handled a good portion of the delicious merchandise.  I doubt the folks at Artwalk had anything on us.   

Closing time rolled around and even though no one was exactly running us off, I felt we’d more than worn out our non-existent invitation.  Besides, we’d headed out to get dinner and hadn’t ticked that off our list, yet.  With some resistance on his part, I dragged Bill out of the shop.  I was afraid he was going to head back to the bar for his third glass!

North waited for us across the street.  Come back next week for that delicious conclusion to an uncommon evening at the Commons.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, United States

Hit the Pause Button on Perfection

Here’s one room you don’t want at the Kierland Resort!

TRAVEL THERE: NOT THE VIEW WE EXPECTED

Having been up since since 2:15 AM, when 4:30 PM rolled around I was ready for a nap – especially since I woke up on Texas time and was living in AZ time. However, we were in the lobby of the Westin Kierland Resort and they were doing everything they could to prove to us they were glad we were there.  I just wanted to lay down.

How Does This Look?

The check-in desk was a little overwhelmed when we got there, but the staff didn’t want us to think we were being overlooked, so they were trying to chat us up about any number of things.  They were giving us all kinds of brochures and maps, marking off the things we’d be most interested in and telling us how lucky we were to be there.  I just smiled and nodded.  There was no way I’d remember any of it told to me in my catatonic state.

Finally, we got to check in and I got the definite impression that the cleaning staff hadn’t managed to keep up with the demand.  We’d been pre-assigned one room, but they were hustling to get us into something else, because it was not done.  Bill let them know I was about to pass out in the lobby.

The desk clerk wanted us to be perfectly satisfied with our room and he was a little concerned we’d be unhappy with seeing a little of the parking lot from our balcony.  So he showed us a picture from the room and asked, “How does this look?”  It looked fine, because it wasn’t a live shot and it didn’t have that green container with all the trash bags in it.  He went about checking us into that room.

How Does This Look Now?

Here’s the funny part.  If the clerk had not made such a big deal about the view, chances are we would have gone into the room and directly to bed.  What lay out our window would have been the least of my concerns.  Instead, since he’d made such a big deal about it, I walked to the balcony and whipped open the curtains – and look what was there!

Bill immediately wanted to get another room, but I knew that if I didn’t lay down, I was going to fall down.  I was actually trembling from exhaustion.  I let him go to the lobby and laid down.  All I wanted to do was get a few moments of rest.  Instead I fell dead asleep and my precious husband wouldn’t allow anyone to disturb me.

Hours later I came awake and my first thought was, “Where the hell am I?”  Bill was anxious to go check the room they were ready to move us to.  I was still a little groggy, but totally appreciative he’d let me get my nap, so I was willing to do pretty much whatever the man wanted to do.

A Better View

We checked out the new room  and gave it our seal of approval.  The first thing I wanted was a bath.  After that I unpacked and got our suite organized.  I figured the day was over and we’d just grab a bite at the resort.

Au contrare! Our little nap time and the chance to get all cleaned up had re-freshened Mr. Bill and he was all for heading out again.  One part of me thought, “Are you crazy?” But another part of me was like, “Alight, alright, alright.”  My inner Matthew McConaughey won the day.  I got cute and headed out into the world with my marvelous husband.

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Scottsdale’s Celebration of Fine Art

https://celebrateart.com/history/

TRAVEL THERE: PUT IT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST

Remember that marvelous Scottsdale Visitors’ Guide I ordered online for free.  Well, on the events page, they listed Celebration of Fine Art and a few pages over was a full page ad.  From there I went to the celebrateart.com website and I immediately knew there was at least one thing I was not going to miss in Scottsdale.

Celebration of Fine Art

If art is your thing or one of your things, you need to plan a trip to Scottsdale during the Celebration of Fine Art.  They have it every year during the months of January through March.  It’s more than just another art show or gallery.  One hundred artists come to Scottsdale and for three months they set up their studios right there in the big white tents. 

What’s more, this is the art bargain of the world.  Tickets are only $10 each and they will get you into the tents for the entire three months.  Unfortunately, we were there such a short time, we only spent a few hours in the tents, but if I lived anywhere near there, I would probably be there every weekend. Even the parking is free.  I’ve spent a whole lot more to get into an art event and have gotten a whole lot less out of it.

We loved this show.  We walked in, paid for our tickets and before we could even get our bearings, we were overwhelmed by a larger than life statue of a Native American being carved at the first booth.  For the next few hours, we walked awestruck from one booth to the next.  In each, we were able to see the artist working away at something new.  Bill was enchanted and stopped to chat at every booth. 

I liked the fact that there was every sort of art you could imagine.  Various mediums, from sculpture to painting to weaving.  You name any material you want, from canvas to plastic, and someone was doing something with it or to it to make it art. There were modern deconstructed pieces cheek to jowl with classical figurative and landscape paintings.  Too often you go to a show and there is booth after booth where everyone is virtually doing the same thing.  That was certainly not the case here.

Another marvelous thing was the quality of artist’s work.  I’ve been to juried shows where I wondered who the jury was.  This show was the best of the best of the best.  There just wasn’t anyone there that made me wonder how they got their spot.  It was all obviously high quality with great artistic value. 

Eventually, our senses were just worn out.  We could not begin to take in even one more art piece or chat with one more artist.  We were done, but we had not even scratched the surface.  We walked back towards the entrance, making sure to pass by those artists who were our favorites. 

We wanted to take something home from virtually every booth, but we managed to get out of the tent empty-handed.  The price tags easily discouraged us from impulse shopping.  It was fine art and the value was there, but we’re only visual collectors, in part because we just can’t afford to be otherwise.  

Time to Check In

It was about time to check into the Westin, but we had a few errands to run.  First of all, we needed water, but instead of picking up individual bottles at a convenience store, we found a grocery store and bought a gallon.  It wouldn’t be our last gallon on this trip.  The calories from Bill’s French Toast had all been used up, so he grabbed a burger at Jack in the Box.

I was on my last leg.  We’d been up since the wee hours and while Mr. Bill can grab a nap sitting in a terminal or in an airline seat, it really doesn’t work for me.  We navigated our way to the resort and got checked in, but we did run into a little problem there.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.  

 

 

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Getting Our Arizona Fun on Early

Love Field, Southwest Airlines
Early Risers

TRAVEL THERE:  UP WITH THE CHICKENS

So, remember how Southwest Airlines sent me an email with cheap airfare.  To get to our destination with the cheapest fares, we either had to be on a plane at 6 AM or virtually lose the first day to travel.  So, I convinced Bill Arizona was worth getting up for.  Here’s how it went.

There’s Early and Then There’s Really Early

The alarm went off at 2:15 AM.  I rolled out of bed.  Bill rolled out at 2:40.  By 3:15 AM the car was backing out of the garage.  No, it was not fun, but we were determined to make the best of it.

At Love Field, since it was raining, Bill unloaded me and the luggage at the terminal and went off to find parking.  I dragged the luggage into the terminal and stood by it, praying to the travel gods that Bill would navigate the parking lot and get back to me.  Parking lots are not his favorite thing in the world and I didn’t want to start the trip off on the wrong foot.

He returned and we set about trying to figure out what was next.  When you’re flying, there’s always a bunch of people who seem to know exactly what they are doing.  This is particularly true in a Southwest terminal.  Their customers are more like a cult than anything else.  I was frantically trying to read every sign I could see and Bill was watching the crowd.  We sort of captured the rhythm of the system and ended up in front of one of the ticketing machines.

We failed miserably.  The self-help machine treated us just like the infrequent, senior-citizen, not-Southwest flyers that we are.  Somehow we managed to press the right buttons to find our reservations and get our luggage tags, but we didn’t end up with boarding passes.

A Southwest employee quickly identified us as inept and came to our rescue.  With boarding passes she procured, we were able to progress to the bag check.  That’s when we discovered my other ooops.  I had attached both luggage bags to one bag and none to the other.  It was more than early.  It was really early!

Still, this trip made me fall back in love with Southwest, though we hadn’t flown them in years.  Thanks to their liberal baggage limits, we were able to check all three bags, rather than trot around dragging a carry-on.  I had everything I needed for being in transit in a small backpack.   I felt like screaming, “Free at last.  Free at last.”

What Bill really thought about waking up so early

Getting There

In truth, I think we could have slept for another hour, but we didn’t realize that.  For years we’ve been fighting the battle out a DFW.  Southwest can’t get you to the Mediterranean, Egypt and the Danube and international has been our focus for years.  Besides, it’ only been in recent years that Southwest was freed from the Wright Amendment, making flying them from Dallas a better proposition.  I think Southwest will be seeing a whole lot more of us, especially since we’re abandoning the International scene for a while, to catch up on some American destinations.

The flight was blissfully uneventful and arrived on time.  We made our way to the rental shuttle and were delivered to the Alamo facility.  That’s when our luck really kicked in.  There on the appointed row, among Hyundais, and Toyotas stood a Jeep – a Jeep with four while drive! He went back to the attendant and confirmed the Jeep was truly one of our options.

We just knew this was going to be a magical trip.  Sure we’d had to get up early, it was raining in Dallas and we’d had a little trouble at the ticket kiosk, but even with those little hiccups we’d had smooth sailing and we had no reason to think it would change.  One of my blogging friends accuses me of making up our little dramas to make my blogs sound more exciting.  Well, we’ll see, because this trip was breeze – not a single headache to report.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Come back next week and we’ll have breakfast in one of the Phoenix area’s top ten breakfast spots.

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Books, Travel Planning, United States

The What Next of Arizona

Arizona, Sc
Getting Away to the Desert

TRAVEL THERE: AZ MUST-SEE DONE, WHAT NEXT?

The first time you visit an area there are just things you must see and thanks to a great trip early in our marriage, as well as several times passing through AZ, we’d knocked out the musts.  From Monument Valley in the northeast corner to the Grand Canyon in the west, to BioSphere down south and seriously, everything in between, I’d taken care of the must-sees.  So why were we going back?

A Desert State of Mind

We like the desert.  There is a peacefulness that comes from the landscape.  Some people like beaches and others prefer mountains, but I’ll take a desert every time.

Bill made it very clear that he wanted to take it easy, very easy on this trip.  He wanted to play golf.  I wanted to have tea at the Phoenician.  The rest was supposed to be relaxation.  Message received.

Those Free Guides from the Internet

For most trips, the first thing I do is go out and buy a travel guide, but I already owned an AZ guide and it had served me well.  I just needed the latest information, including festivals and events.  The internet is great for that and so are those free travel guides the cities and states will send you.

In the world of free travel guides, Scottsdale has won the prize.  I pored over their guide the moment it arrived and continue salivating over it to day.  It was full of information without being overwhelming and hip without being shallow.  It had great maps and references to online resources that I really cared about.

Phoenix did not fare so well.  It was virtually anonymous, merely a template someone sold advertising in.  I yawned over it and it’s greatest contribution to the trip was some headlines I used in my scrapbook of the trip.  

Sedona’s guide was somewhere in the middle – not as snazzy as Scottsdale, but not as boring as Phoenix.  A map in the center served us during the stay and made it to the scrapbook. 

Wonderful Websites

From various websites I was able to glean a lot of useful information about some art festivals and events that proved to be very helpful in planning the trip.  There were Artwalks, Art Festivals and other Arty things just begging for us to take part.  The trick is not to merely google the city, but google “visit wherever.”

I used the local New Times sites to find the best places to have breakfast.  The internet is also where I found the amazing inn where we overnighted in Sedona.  Thank you, Expedia!  

Playing It By Ear

For those of you who say phooey on all that planning, I’m just going to play it by ear, I say good luck.  I find it is a lot harder to be ready to play it by ear, than it is to plan things out in detail in advance.  This only happens on the first Friday, that is only open one evening of the week, something else needs reservations at least two days in advance.

If you just show up somewhere, without doing your homework, and then try to play it by ear, well, you might have a great vacation, but the chance of you actually getting to see and do the things you were most interested in are slim to none in most cases.

The trick in this household it to be sure I know what’s most important to me and work it in early in the trip, then as the time plays out and the options get smaller, I haven’t missed my priorities.  I work out a list of daily options, focusing on the one time or limited access events.  I don’t get to see everything I want when Bill is playing it by ear, but I don’t miss everything either.

Next week, we’ll start out on our Arizona Adventure.  Please come join me.

 

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

We Can’t Resist a Bargain

Arizona, Scottsdale, Westin Resort
Westin Kierland Resort

TRAVEL THERE: WESTIN MAKES AN OFFER WE CAN’T REFUSE

We’d talked about it.  The Anniversary Cruise had eaten up more than its fair share of our budget.  We needed to give traveling a break.  Then we got the invitation from Westin.  Come take a look at our Vacation Club it said.  Stay four nights for $299 it said.  Had they been offering a trip to anywhere else, the invitation would have gone into the trash, but they wanted us to come to Arizona.

I’m Just Leaving This Right Here

I opened the envelope, read the offer and then shuffled it around on my desk for a few days.  As I moved the offer around on my desk, I started making a case for the trip.  While the Anniversary Cruise had been expensive, I’d done a multi-year cost analysis and we’d stayed within the allotted amount.  We just didn’t have anymore right then.  However each month the travel budgets accrues a little bit…and we didn’t have to make the reservations until September sometime…and then we had a year to take the trip.  It was at least worth running by Bill.

I went down to his office and made a disclaimer, “This showed up in the mail and it was too good to just throw away.  I’m going to put it here in your mail pile and you can take a look at it if you want.”  I think he probably moved it around on his desk for a day or two.  Then he said, “What’s the deal with this trip?  I don’t want to read the whole thing.”  I cheered inside.  The question was almost as good as a rubber stamp of approval.

I explained just how amazing the offer was.  It wouldn’t be our first trip like this.  We’ve been to Hawaii, Branson, Palm Desert and a number of other places, visiting time shares on the cheap.  Bill hates the sales pitch, but he loves the price.  And we love Arizona.  I got the green light.  We discussed potential travel dates and decided on February, because the real estate market would still be cool and we wouldn’t miss a bunch of shoots.  Bill even said, “Why don’t you also look into a visit to Sedona?  We love that place.”

And We’re Off

I called up the Westin, picked our travel dates and started dreaming of desert nights.  But I didn’t just dream.  I went online and ordered up free travel guides from Arizona, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Sedona.  As the guides arrived in the mail I started poring over them, turning down the corner of pages and highlighting the good stuff.

Then one day, out of the blue, I get an email from Southwest Airlines.  We haven’t flown with them in decades and I’m not on any of their mailing lists, but there it was.  They wanted to sell me some cheap air fares.  I jumped on it with alacrity.  It seemed as if the travel gods had sanctioned this trip and were doing everything they could to make it wonderful. 

Come back next week and I’ll share how I put the trip together.